Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Published in Textiles and Politics: Textile Society of America 13th Biennial Symposium Proceedings, Washington, DC, September 18- September 22, 2012.


Copyright 2012 by the author(s).


In 2009, the University of Rhode Island obtained a koteka, or penis sheath, from Papua New Guinea that was donated by a resident of Rhode Island. The koteka was mounted and accompanied by an image of three men, presumably from Papua New Guinea, wearing penis sheaths. Kotekas are an adornment worn by native men of Papua New Guinea to cover their genitalia. This research delves into the political and social meanings of what this adornment is, who wears it, and why it is considered clothing. Besides clothing, the koteka is also a way to show ones affiliation with a certain tribe. Due to changing times, the koteka is less common, however, many men still wear it. The nation's decision to try to force men to wear additional clothing along with the koteka, may have been influenced by other cultures. This paper explores why certain customs are acceptable and others are not and how the modern world may have affected those that lived and grew up with the tradition of wearing only a koteka as clothing. The goal of this paper is to show the importance of the penis sheath and its effect on the culture and tradition of Papua New Guinea. By comparing this research with the practices of other such traditions such as the codpiece and the loincloth, it is noticed that the idea of using materials to cover the male genitalia has been around for centuries.